While the creation of a separate South Punjab province might be a distant dream at the moment, the government seems keen to make it a separate entity in all but name. The Punjab government has decided to establish South Punjab Police Office (SPPO) to look into the affairs of the southern part of the province. The new office, initially run under the existing Lahore based police management setup, will eventually be transferred fully to the new south Punjab office.

The vision, as articulated by the summary moved by the CPO to Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, is to set up an independent Inspector General whose job would be to ‘supervise regional police officers (RPOs) of DG Khan, Multan and Bahawalpur, look after maintenance of public order, crime, special operations, public security and delivery of public service in south Punjab.”

The act of separating administrative functions to form a de facto South Punjab is one that has long been used by the government. Punjab is a vast administrative unit and to ensure efficiency bureaucratic offices, such as National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) and the Passport and Immigration Department already organise themselves into two distinct administrative units: South Punjab and North Punjab. Each of these units is looked after their own heads of operations and a distinct chain of command.

While the Punjab government may be criticised in some quarters for creating a separate province piecemeal and without using the correct constitutional channels, the question at the moment is one of pure administrative efficiency and precedent already exist for such practices.

The move also serves the dual purpose of placating the members of South Punjab bloc – both in the Punjab Assembly and the National Assembly – who have come into power and are allied with the government on the express promise of getting the province. With political challenges abound and matters of higher priority on the government’s table, getting a contentious and time consuming issue such as this resolved is a difficult proposition. Such small moves will hence come in handy at keeping the bloc at bay for the time being.

However the government must ensure that this new measure is not simply a political show. The new police force and its facilities must be properly funded and maintained. South Punjab would be ill-served if its police force is inferior to its northern counterpart. The government must not take this matter lightly.